HONOLULU – Not counting his rookie season of 2013, Jordan Spieth has never finished outside the top 10 in his first event of the year. It would take some doing to keep that streak alive at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Whatever malaise that hampered the former world No. 1 in his winless 2018 campaign seemed to be hanging on in his first round of the new year. Spieth got nothing going on Thursday at Waialae Country Club, and it showed in a three-over-par 73 that left him near the back of the pack and 11 behind early leader Andrew Putnam.
Spieth, wearing black KT tape on his left wrist as a precaution, he said, hit only seven fairways and nine greens in regulation. He needed 30 putts and made only 33 feet of putts on the day. His only birdie came on a four-footer on the par-3 seventh, his 16th hole of the day. The lone piece of intrigue was twice in four holes needing to take a free drop and starting at shoulder height before being corrected.
“I went through, like, a couple different swings today. It was kind of a test I guess,” Spieth said after breaking a streak of eight straight sub-par rounds at Waialae CC. “It's very unusual. I don't feel like I've been in this situation before. It's OK. I felt like I was patient out there and still am right now.”
Perhaps that was the real test – not getting too frustrated too soon. It was only one round and his first competitive round since a second round 69 and missed cut on Nov. 9 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico as he played alongside Bryson DeChambeau, who had a 69, and Gary Woodland, last week’s runner-up at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, who rallied to a 71.
But his remark about the situation he finds himself in required further explanation. What situation? “Like where you just have to accept that it's not going to be great when you go out,” he shared. “Like I'm over the ball and I'm uncomfortable. It's going to happen in the course of a career. As long as I don't let it get to me like I did a little bit last year, I'll be able to get back on track sooner rather than later.”
Though he has concentrated on putting plenty during his off-season, that facet of his game still was lacking. But it wasn’t as bad as the stats made it appear. Although, 33 feet of putts had to be disappointing when he’s been used to making putts longer than that in one stroke.
“Actually, pretty good. I mean, felt comfortable with the putter today. Didn't end up making anything, but felt like I hit my lines, felt comfortable,” he said. “That's closer than the swing is. It's not to where I'm just over it and playing shots or over it and seeing lines and hitting putts. It'll get there. I'm not worried about it.”
At least on that score – attitude – he hit the mark.
“Like I said, could take a while,” Spieth pointed out, “but I got pretty far off and I'm trying to backtrack significantly. But I need to get some tournament rounds to do it, even though it's humbling at the same time.
“At least one of the events has to be the first event; happens to be Sony this year. I will come back and try and shoot five, six under tomorrow, shoot a solid round. The idea is to try and progress each day. I would really like to have an opportunity to do that on the weekend, so I need to shoot a good round tomorrow just to give myself a chance.”